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Taiwan after Pelosi's visit: war, blockade or reunification?

04.08.2022
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According to David T. Pyne

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) more than seventy years ago, the reunification of China with Taiwan has been a paramount goal of its foreign policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that China's patience with Taiwan is running out. Over the past two decades, China has significantly increased its air assault capabilities. Meanwhile, the frequency and scale of Chinese fighter and bomber incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone over the past year have been unprecedented, with more than 1,400 incursions accompanied by major People's Liberation Army (PLA) naval exercises off the coast of Taiwan.

Last month, Beijing took the unprecedented step of claiming full sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait and warning the United States against any attempt by its warships to circle it without their permission. The Biden administration expressed concern that China would take military action against Taiwan within the next eighteen months. In response to the growing threat, the Biden administration sent a carrier battle group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, east of Taiwan in an attempt to contain Chinese aggression.

There are now indications that Beijing may be using Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan as a convenient excuse to finalize preparations for a long-planned air and sea blockade of Taiwan under the guise of "preventing Taiwan secession and dividing China." Amid rising tensions over a planned visit by Pelosi, Biden and Xi held an emergency video conference on July 27, during which Xi warned Biden against US interference in China's plans to reunite with Taiwan. “Those who play with fire will die from it,” Xi said. “There is hope that the US will take it more soberly.” The Beijing report added a statement that the PRC should be "prepared for the worst-case scenario and potential conflict with the United States.

China's state media reported that its military is mobilizing for war in preparation for a potential preemptive attack on Taiwan in response to Pelosi's visit. In addition, Beijing warned the United States against a military response, saying it would lead to a "serious military conflict." He added that Taiwan would be the place where the United States would finally show its "true face of a paper tiger" and that China did not fear any escalation if Washington decided to take military action against Taiwan. It's no coincidence that China began holding a major live-fire land and naval exercise in the Taiwan Strait on July 30, the same day that Pelosi set off on her tour of Asia. After Pelosi's arrival on the island, China announced that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would continue air and naval exercises: "live fire" surrounds Taiwan, invading its territorial waters from August 4 to 7, allowing the PLA to begin blockade after completion of the exercises. China is mobilizing its economy and military for war, according to a recently leaked video of a joint military-civilian meeting of the PLA military leadership that appears to be genuine.

According to the Department of Defense's 2021 annual report on the Chinese military threat, China may attempt to impose an air and naval blockade of Taiwan to force its surrender, likely accompanied by the seizure of Taiwan's coastal territories and possibly missile strikes against key Taiwanese military installations such as anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems. Any U.S. attempt to break the Chinese blockade would likely result in China opening fire on U.S. ships and aircraft, sparking World War III in the Pacific. China will argue that it is not blockading Taiwan, but rather is imposing a quarantine on its own sovereign territory, which is not considered an act of war under international law, further reducing the chances of a direct U.S. military response.

If Taiwan is satisfied that the United States does not break the Chinese air and naval blockade to replenish humanitarian aid, it is likely to quickly come to an agreement with Beijing in a reunification agreement that the United States can broker. Such an agreement could be based on the “one country, two systems” model proposed by Deng Xiaoping back in 1979, preventing a potential nuclear catastrophe. And despite China's takeover of Taiwan's advanced semiconductor industry, the United States could probably live in a world in which Taiwan was part of China.

 

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